SINGAPORE - The self-proclaimed "underdogs" of the 2015 General Election took to the stage on Friday (Sept 4) night, and no, they were not members of the opposition but the five men in white contesting Aljunied GRC.
The People's Action Party's (PAP) Aljunied candidates made their rally debut at a field in Defu Lane. They have been dubbed the "suicide squad" for trying to wrest back control of the Workers' Party-held (WP) constituency, which the ruling party lost in the 2011 General Election. WP also holds the Hougang and Punggol East single wards.
Nine rallies from eight parties were held on the third night of rallies leading up to the Sept 11 polls.
The PAP held two, at Defu Lane and Bedok Stadium, the WP was at Yishun Stadium, Singapore People's Party (SPP) at Toa Payoh Stadium, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at Petir Road, Reform Party (RP) at Yio Chu Kang Stadium, Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) at Pasir Ris Park, People's Power Party (PPP) at Bukit Gombak Stadium and National Solidarity Party (NSP) at Woodlands Drive.
Here are our five highlights of Sept 4:
1. SO WHO WENT?
Besides the WP rally which attracted a large crowd - although some observed it to be smaller than on the first two nights - the others had between a few hundred and a few thousand in the audience.
He did not refer directly to the long-running Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga in his 40-minute speech. But he noted how former MP George Yeo had run Aljunied well and built up healthy reserves, but it did not take long "to demolish it". This was why the PAP was bringing back to Aljunied a team that will "stop things from going wrong, make things right", he said, promising "things will work again".
The PAP's Hougang candidate Lee Hong Chuang and Aljunied candidates Yeo Guat Kwang, Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong, K. Muralidharan Pillai and Shamsul Kamar also spoke.
Mr Pillai, a lawyer, delivered a forceful speech peppered with anecdotes about how the PAP team had persevered despite the cool - and sometimes hostile - reception from Aljunied residents in the aftermath of the 2011 polls.
He said: "Are we underdogs? I think so. But does it matter?... Who are the people who are trustworthy sincere... And who are capable to walk the talk? PAP's track record speaks for itself... Please bring us back home."
Key challenges posed by a trio of peaks in Singapore's workforce, population and the elderly may eventually hinder Singapore's growth, he said. While it was not a problem unique to Singapore, he said the nation can turn these challenges into an advantage if it manages to solve them ahead of other countries.
How it does so will depend on the type of leaders chosen to lead Singapore into the future, he added.
* Population White Paper
This was a hot topic.
At least five of the WP candidates covered it in their speeches, including East Coast GRC candidate Daniel Goh who said the WP's vision was the opposite of what the PAP had proposed - a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore instead of the other way around.
Lawyer Terence Tan hammered the PAP MPs over their lack of opposition to the paper. He said only the WP MPs dared to opposed it, but also praised retiring PAP MP Inderjit Singh for being the only one to dare to speak out against it.
At RP, Ang Mo Kio GRC candidate Gilbert Goh devoted much of his speech to foreigners working in Singapore, and said his heart was troubled by how foreigners have a "minimum wage" in the form of the salary criteria for S Passes and Employment Passes, while Singaporeans do not.
At the NSP rally, several also spoke about the White Paper, including Tampines GRC candidate Sebastian Teo, who said: "The Government projected population to go up to 6.9 million because it sounds less than 7 million....Is your life better than five years ago. If there (are) eight million people, will the next generation lives be better? I doubt it."
Over at PPP, secretary-general Goh Meng Seng said the party was not against foreigners, but against the "PAP's ruthless population growth policy".
WP's Leon Perera argued that the CPF Life monthly payouts were not enough for many senior citizens to retire comfortably.
The Government's solution is to "unlock the wealth in your home", he said, but this meant selling your home and incurring costs when moving to a new house. It also "uproots us from the community we grow up and want to grow old in".
Dr Chee, on the other hand, focused on the elderly poor who have to collect cardboard to survive. He estimated that each has to collect 80kg of cardboard a day to afford three basic meals.
WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, speaking in Mandarin, hit out mainly at the lack of foresight in the PAP's public housing policies over the years. He pushed the idea that the price of a HDB flat should be pegged to a household's monthly income.
PPP's Chua Chu Kang GRC candidate Lee Tze Shih also criticised housing policies, among other things, noting that house sizes have dwindled as the population increased.
SDP's Chong Wai Fung and her colleagues called for land costs to be removed from the cost of HDB flats.
4. SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS
* Just as Reform Party chairman Andy Zhu was launching into his speech and saying that his party was well-prepared, his mobile phone went off. He paused, turned it to silent mode and apologised before continuing.
* Teen blogger Amos Yee created a bit of a stir when he was spotted at the Reform Party's event in Yio Chu Kang Stadium. "This is my first rally. I'm here because Roy is my good buddy and I know M. Ravi and also it is pretty close to my house," he said, referring to Ang Mo Kio GRC candidates Roy Ngerng and lawyer M. Ravi.
A dozen or so in the crowd asked him for selfies, with one man saying "this is the highlight of the evening" and the 16-year-old declaring: "I am quite scared I'll steal the limelight."
"We have been doing this for 50 years, we have shown you what we can do. If I say can, means can. If I say buay sai means buay sai. I am telling you if the PAP comes back here, eh sai!"
- PM Lee Hsien Loong. "Buay sai" means "can't" in Hokkien and "eh sai" means "can".
"We lost the general election here. One year later I went to Paya Lebar I had a rough start. I remember bringing rice to the rental flats... One gentleman said to me 'only accept WP rice. I do not accept PAP rice'... People told me, 'you are stupid, go back home'... But am I deterred? No. I told myself that these people need help."
- PAP's Aljunied GRC candidate Murali Pillai
"The grey hair that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had, the grey hair that Mr Goh Chok Tong has, the grey hair that Mr Lee Hsien Loong has is all for you."
- Former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng at the Defu rally
"My name is Gurmit Singh. I am not Phua Chu Kang. He says he is best in Singapore, JB and Batam. If I'm best in Nee Soon GRC, enough already."
- WP's Nee Soon GRC candidate Gurmit Singh, a lawyer, in Hokkien, on how some have mistaken him for the actor with the same name
"I tell you the clever people are stepping forward on the opposition side."
- SPP's Benjamin Pwee introducing fellow Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidate Bryan Long
"If you ask me whether I prefer the blue sky or the white clouds, I will vote for the blue sky. Why? Because white clouds can be blown here and there, change their shape and even turn grey or black. But the blue sky will always be there."
- WP chairman Sylvia Lim on what a Bedok North resident told her earlier that day. The party's colour is blue, while the PAP's is white
"A PAP MP might think he is a lion in Parliament, but when it comes to the vote, he is the mouse. A little white mouse!"
- WP chairman Sylvia Lim
"Singaporeans are either living in absolute poverty or relative poverty. You compare yourself to Japan, Hong Kong, and even Malaysia."
- Reform Party's Ang Mo Kio GRC candidate Jesse Loo
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.